Endless snot, a hacking cough, fever, and the biggest, saddest tears ever; the dreaded baby cold. Every parent dreads it, and yet every parent deals with it. No matter how careful we are, how often we sanitize everything, or how strict we are about people touching our babies during cold & flu season, keeping our baby virus free in their first year is simply not possible. In fact, most babies will have up to seven colds before their first birthday. Yes, it’s normal, and even though it’s heartbreaking to watch your baby suffer it actually helps strengthen the immune system. After surviving my baby’s first cold (and living through a week of pure hell), I want to share my knowledge with other new Mama’s out there.
What To Expect
Sick babies have many of the same symptoms as adults do. The difference, however, is that a baby is not equipped to deal with these symptoms on their own and must rely completely on us for comfort. Can you imagine having a stuffed up nose and not being able to blow it, or take any medication? It would probably be pretty hard to breathe. This is the problem a sick baby has. They aren’t able to breathe comfortably and can’t really do anything about it without help from Mom or Dad.
The plugged sinus’ cause other problems as well. Because the eyes and the nose are connected, your babe may have red, puffy, irritated eyes. My girl also had a runny nose, and if I wasn’t quick enough she would rub her nose and eyes, effectively rubbing snot into her already irritated eyes. All the mucus from her sinus’ was also a major problem at night. As we all know from experience, a plugged nose only gets worse at night because we are laying down and therefore not allowing any sort of drainage to happen. So all the snot just sits there, making it even harder to breathe. If we can prop our heads up with a few good pillows, it helps a bit. Sadly, though, anything but a fitted sheet in a baby’s crib isn’t safe. So they have to lay there and basically drown in snot.
Another nasty symptom baby’s must deal with is a cough. My girl had a wet cough, and it was heartbreaking to listen to. She would have coughing fits so intense that she would vomit a little bit, and the cough was so hard on her throat that she would cry every time. The doctor told us this cough was actually a good thing, because it was keeping the mucus out of her lungs. Still, though, it’s hard to remember that when you have a crying baby in your arms.
On top of all that, most sick babies will have a bit of a fever as well. This causes more discomfort for your baby, and more worrying for you. Again, my doctor assured us that while a low grade fever is uncomfortable, it means the body is doing it’s job by trying to kill off the virus.
So, what can you expect with a sick baby? A lot of tears, discomfort, and worrying.
How To Help Your Baby
While my girl was sick, my big question was “how can I help her feel better?” While we can’t give them most of the medications we would use as adults, there are actually a lot of other things we can do for our babies to help them feel better.
Steam: I’m not ashamed to admit that my girl and I spent a huge amount of time hanging out in the bathroom while she was sick. I would bring in her bouncer chair, a few toys, and my tablet. I would then run the shower on full hot, basically creating a steam room to hang out in. I would have a movie going on the tablet and she would either play with her toys or snooze. It was great. The steam helped loosen up some of that mucus in her nose, and she would have a few very productive sneezes (as in a boat load of snot would come flying out of her nose and usually land somewhere in my hair). Her nose would be clear for a while after a steam session, so I usually did this before naps and bedtime. I like to think the warm steam also felt good on her throat, but who knows.
Baths: While my girl was sick, she probably had about three baths a day. The warm water would create some vapor, which acted much the same as the DIY steam room did. The nice thing about her being in the bath was that when the snot explosions came, I could just wipe it away with some warm water and she wouldn’t even notice. The bath also helped to regulate her temperature. I’m not sure about the science behind this, but it really does work. Lastly, plunking her in the tub always perked her up. My girl loves water, so no matter how awful she was feeling she always cracked a smile in the tub.
Snot-Sucker: When I took my girl to the doctor, he stressed the importance of keeping her nose clear so she could breathe easier. I had one of those nose bulbs, but it was just wasn’t working. He gave me this to try. The Neilmed Naspira Aspirator is basically a long tube that hooks up to a bulb with a baby sized nose spout. The other end of the tube has a mouthpiece, and you basically just suck the snot out of your child’s face. There is a filter so you don’t get mucus in your mouth (barf). This thing worked sooo well for my sick girl. She absolutely hated it and fought me every time, but the results were worth the fight.
Vapor Rub: I know there’s a lot of debate out there whether you should use vapor rub on a baby or not. If it’s the stuff that everyone has in their medicine cabinets (that’s been a cold staple for years), probably don’t use that on your baby. There is a special formula specifically for babies 3 months or older, and it is safe to use. Vicks BabyRub is what I used for my girl, and it worked really well. I put it on the soles her feet, her chest, and her back. It helped clear her airways a bit and it smells great.
What To Watch For
Before I finish up I just want to be clear that my girl is 8 months old. She is no longer an obligate nose breather and has a stronger immune system than a newborn. Having a sick newborn is a whole different ball game. If you have a sick newbie, the advice in this article will not suffice. Read up on how to help sick newborns and call your doctor.
For older babies, however, there are still a few things you need to watch out for. If your baby has any of the following symptoms, they’re in trouble and need medical attention..
Purple/Blue Lips: This is a sure sign that your baby is not getting enough oxygen, and needs help fast.
Labored Breathing: Another sign your baby isn’t getting oxygen. The tissue above and below the rib cage will be “sucking in” dramatically.
High Fever: The guidelines on what is considered a dangerous fever change depending on age. Trust your gut and talk with your doctor. If your baby is acting strange (delirious, weak, etc.) it’s probably time to take them in.
Lastly, hang in there Mama. It’s hard watching your baby struggle, and their pain truly is your pain. Be strong for your babe and as always, take care of yourself too. You got this!